Before he was one of the top wrestlers in University of Nebraska history, Jordan Burroughs was a freshman spending nights crying in his dorm room.
The former Sicklerville, N.J., prep wrestler moved halfway across the country from his family and friends, which didn’t make the transition to college any easier. But behind the tears and heartache of spending birthdays and holidays away from home, on the mat it all came together.
Burroughs compiled an impressive resume with 44 consecutive wins at two different weight classes, two NCAA championships and left Nebraska with the fourth-most wins in school history.
“The main focus has always been to win the gold,” said the 24-year-old who began competing on the international circuit after the end of his collegiate season. “At the end of the day, when I lay down and put my headphones on, the first thing I’m thinking about is winning the gold medal. I’ve sacrificed fun, girlfriends and family to be the best wrestler in the world.”
Burroughs hasn’t lost a tournament since the beginning of the 2009 season. The reigning 74 kg. world champion and 2011 Pan American Games champion expects nothing less than a gold medal in London. He is so confident, that he has already mapped out his celebratory path from the mat on the ExCel Arena floor to his parents’ seats.
This is what he dreamt of since he watched the 1996 Olympic Games and saw athletes stand on the podium representing their countries. Chasing the Olympic dream made it easier for him to forsake baseball, football and track. He was built for wrestling. That mat is where he thrives.
But despite his talent, nothing could have prepared him for how quickly he became the face of wrestling in the United States.
“My popularity from college rolled right over to the international scene,” Burroughs said. “I’m just happy to be here – happy for the opportunity – and I think I’m good for the sport. I want to win. I expect to win, and wrestling needs someone that can win.”
U.S. wrestling coach Zeke Jones watched Burroughs storm his way through the Pan American Games and called it a testament to Americans closing the gap on other nations, including perennial power Russia.
“It’s a critical and pivotal movement for wrestling, not only at these Olympic Games, but over the next four years,” Jones said. “I think you’ll find there could be a new leader in the world.”
Burroughs hopes to help the U.S. capitalize on this momentum with a podium appearance in London when he competes Friday.
“At this point in my career, I’m the best in the world, and I wasn’t always the best in the world, Burroughs said. “It took a lot of hard work, sacrifice and commitment to get to this point and I don’t plan on losing.”
“I am my biggest threat,” he continued. “If I go out there and wrestle the way I wrestle in training, I’m unbeatable.”